Picture Perfect 5 ~ The Reception

Approximate time:
2-4 hours

We're finally here at the final instalment, and what is likely the final part of your wedding day. It's time to unwind, hang out, and quite possibly have a party. For the most part, this is the simplest time for the photographer planning-wise. For the most part, they'll just hang around like a fly on the wall. Even so, as always, there are just a few things to keep in mind:

1) Light up

It's amazing what just a little bit of lighting can do. Wedding planners know all about this, as do most wedding DJ's. A splash of colour, a burst from a fog machine, and a little ambiance can go a long way toward making a dusty old hall feel like an energetic and modern space. Someone who knows what they're doing with light can work wonders. Keep in mind, though, the DJ and the photographer are not miracle workers. If you want your space to look magical in the end, you do want to start with a good foundation, and what started as a dusty old hall will still bear a passing resemblance to a dusty old hall at the end of the day, no matter what you do! If you're thinking that you can't afford a nicer reception venue, don't be afraid to think outside the box. Anything from a barn, to a field, to a tent, to whatever You would personally find interesting. It's your day, after all, and if you have a crazy idea, don't be afraid to run with it! (within reason...I suspect that an underwater reception might be tricky).

2) Heads up

There are usually only a few specific moments to be captured during a reception: the speeches, first dances, bouquet toss, and cake cutting. Aside from those moments, the photographer is just going to busy themselves looking for great candid moments. Just make sure the photographer is aware that these moments are coming up, and if there is anything else specifically special to you that might be going on. While the bouquet is half way through its arc in the air, you don't want to suddenly realize that the photographer is still snapping shots of great aunt Agnes cutting a rug on the dance floor. It's pretty easy to lose track of people at some receptions, so just be intentional about making sure your favourite moments are going to be captured.

Likewise, if something unexpected is going on that you want captured, and the photographer isn't on the spot, don't just fire off some blurry iPhone shots, feel free to grab the photographer and point them in the right direction. They might not have noticed that your father has taken it upon himself to build a 6' tall, 'architecturally sound' replica of the Empire State Building out of wedding cupcakes, which you know from experience is about to become a tumbling Jenga tower of catastrophe.

3) Live it up

I hate to be the one to have to remind you of this, but here goes: this is your only wedding reception, so have a good time. This is the end of the busiest, craziest, happiest, fullest, most wonderful (if you followed my advice - just kidding!) day of your life. At the end of it all, it's only going to be what you put into it. If you decide you're bored or tired or frustrated at this point, you're not going to have a great time, and there will lots of photos of you not having a great time.

However, if you decide that you want to dance like a maniac with your bride/groom, eat all the frosting off one side of the cake, and then loudly regale your friends with a story about the funniest moment of your day so that everyone in the room can hear what you're saying whether they want to or not, you go right ahead. Wear the wedding cake topper as a hat, and finish that bottle of wine from table 3. Dance like a 5 year old with a 5 year old. Or just sit in the corner and chat with the three friends you haven't seen in years. It's up to you. Do whatever is going to make you happy on this day. After all, you aren't going to have a lot of other days in the future that are fully catered, pre-organized, and professionally styled and photographed for posterity.


We've finally made it to the end of this trilogy in five parts, preparing for wedding photography, and at the end of the day, if we were to sum it all up in a neat and tidy bundle, it would mostly be encapsulated in that final point just above. If you're having a good time, it's going to show through in your photos. It's going to show through in your memories. It's going to show through in your family. Don't let the madness of the day get you down. Be ready, be there, and be yourself.

And I'll be there to help you remember how awesome the day was, and how awesome you both are.

See you there.

-Wes